Out (darned) Spot!

So of course when I obsess on a training topic it must show up in my lesson planning. I took the around-the-clock exercise and the subsequent “Go On!” into the Sunday four hour mini-clinic. While in general it was successful and I got to see some impressive training steps and a couple of fun light-bulb moments. I also noted in the overall teaching that many of my students don’t completely understand the application of handler pressure on the dog’s path. What I need to do now is bring “Get Out!” training into the lesson plan and, frankly, into homework.

What Does Out Mean?

I’ve observed for a very long time as a judge and competitor that many people use the word “Out” but only a few show evidence of a real training foundation for the command. What does it mean?

Get Out is a directional command that means for the dog to bend away from you, increasing lateral distance.

The Introduction


The introduction of the Out command is a continuation of the around-the-clock exercise. But note that the dog and handler are at different positions on the clock. The dog is at 6:00 while the handler is more at 4:00. What I really want you to note here is how the handler applies pressure back to the dog’s path. The handler faces perpendicular to the dog’s path.

Many agility handlers will instinctively square their shoulders parallel to the dog’s path and so cannot adequately apply this pressure.

You’ll note that the dog’s path in the illustration really doesn’t show much of an increase in lateral distance. It is none-the-less a huge conceptual step for the dog to understand not to move towards the handler but away. We’ll add the increase in lateral distance as we continue the training.


The dog’s trainer should gradually, in modest incremental steps work farther from the target obstacle. Note too that the dog’s starting position might be shifted more towards the handler so that he will have to bend away from the handler at a modestly increasing distance.

Remember that you are in “dog training” mode. That means when you have a successful rep you should mark the performance and reward the dog. If you are very clever in your training you should have very few failed steps. Always work in modest incremental steps so that your student isn’t over-faced by your ambition. But! If you do fail in a step simply back off your criterion and begin again back nearer to the obstacle at a previous step that your dog understood. If I’ve pushed along too quickly I’ll cut my advancement in half, and then rebuild the performance.

Adding Flow


I also want my dog to understand the “Get Out” performance while he’s in full motion. This exercise has a bit of a prerequisite skill, as the handler should be able to send the dog on to the pipe tunnel in order to have the position to practice the “Out”. Note that in the initial introduction the pipe tunnel nicely lines up with the target obstacle so there isn’t much of a bend away from the handler’s position at all. However be very clear about this… the dog isn’t coming towards the handler.


Gradually we can shift the pipe tunnel (a cannon, after all) so that the dog must bend away from his line of introduction to get to target.


We’re nowhere near done with “Get Out” having eked out an introduction only. I’ll add complexity in my post tomorrow. In the meantime I should leave you with an idea or two to think about. In the illustrations in this introduction I’ve made the tire the target obstacle[1]. From the dog’s point of view we might have simply renamed the obstacle.

It would be a good idea to spread the introduction of the “Out” command over a variety of different obstacles. Indeed, you might want to return to the basic building block training steps when you practice “Out” to a new target obstacle. The training might have ample variety in all things except what “Out” actually means to the dog. So the wealth of variety in the context of the presentation actually allows the dog to crystallize his learning on the true meaning of the command.

A New Pup!

Yes Michelle… it’s a Maltese. And here’s a picture of the boy.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

[1] Of course the tire has my attention. At the TDAA Petit Prix there will be a competition for the longest send to the tire.


9 Responses to “Out (darned) Spot!”

  1. Michelle Says:

    HAHA! He’s s funny looking Maltese, but adorable! Take lots of pictures they grow very fast. Any names yet? In keeping with your golf based names, how about Chip??
    I’ll be looking to you or some really good puppy training advice; I’ve started training my 18 month old toy poodle on obstacles, and will add all the gems of advice you can offer to our training. Elvis is going to be awesome.
    When you are really an old man you need to try a toy dog; they are a kick in the pants to train and faster than most people realize; oh, and often you cannot see them while you are running.

    Congrats on Hazard’s TACh, she is so fun to watch.


  2. budhouston Says:

    Hey Michelle. I don’t actually have him yet. It looks like what we’ll do is intercept the breeder from VA who’ll be on the road to KY for some big herding shindig. We’ll hook up with them down around Charleston WV next Mondayish.

    To tell you the darned truth I’m reviewing just about everything I know about training a pup, a fact already beginning to reflect in the web log.

    The hooplah about Hazards TACh might be misplaced. We reviewed our records before the trial and figured she needed the one standard run. But Randy Breaden was there and he says Haz got her TACh at the last trial she was at. That must have been the judges clinic up in Washingtonville. But what the heck… we got a nice ribbon and a TACh bar out of the deal, even if I was mistaken.


  3. katie Says:

    A BC!!!!! Bud, you’ve gone over to the dark side.
    -Katie & Dave

  4. Judy Casserberg Says:

    And here I thought that you were looking at Yorkies with a longing look. Emma and Lilly are disappointed. Lilly came through with her last leg for her beginners Standard on Sunday, but only after Donni and I worked on the chute with her. Her new chute command is, “Auntie Donni is holding it open for you”. What ever works and it worked every time.

  5. Amanda Says:

    Congrats on the new pup! He is a doll.

    I competed in ASCA yesterday and tried out the tandem-blind to move through a pinwheel. It worked very nicely! I also got Tika to change direction, move away from me, and weave on an Open gamble. She was simply fantastic.

    I found your cabin key. It is on its way back to you even as we speak.

    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Amanda,

      It’s very cool that you took new movement into competition with you. I liked that it worked very nicely. I trust you had a great showing in ASCA.


  6. Bernadette Says:

    Hi Bud, Look forward to reading about your new pup and his training! It’s not a sheltie but you can be forgiven. 🙂

    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Bernadette ~ I find myself reviewing everything I know about training a new pup. Of course foundation methods are going to be of great interest to me. I’m already starting to hear the “dark side” chides. And I really don’t care. There’s nothing automatic about a BC. But if it is a question of “nurture” I’m going to be careful to do the right thing for the boy.

      Hickory… Kor. I’m apparently also off the golf theme. I’ve been a Sheltie man for 25 years. So it’s an interesting change for me.


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